One of the worst surprises that can happen is to learn that there’s a warrant out for your arrest. Many times this can happen without you even knowing that there’s an active case against you! This most often happens when court doesn’t have an accurate address for you. They send you a court notice in the mail, but you don’t receive it. When you fail to appear for the hearing that you knew nothing about, the court issues a warrant for your arrest. Some people can go for months or even years not knowing that there’s a warrant for your arrest. Finding out about the warrant is a distressing and overwhelming experience. Fortunately, there are steps you can take!
Step One: Stay Calm
The worst thing you can do in this situation is to panic. Instead, take steps to get informed. If you have a case file number, you can use it to look up information about your case here. Note that active cases cannot be searched by name, so you’ll need to have the court file number. If you don’t have this, you can get it by calling your local court administration (assuming you’re in Minnesota), explaining the situation and asking them for the file number. Once you have this, you can use the link above to find out information about the case, including what county it is in, what the charges are, and when the warrant was issued.
Step Two: Get Help With Your Warrant
A skilled criminal defense attorney can be a great help to you in this scenario. There are options available to address the warrant, but it’s difficult to take advantage of them without legal guidance. Those options include:
- Negotiation: In some cases an attorney may even be able to contact the prosecutor’s office on your behalf and negotiate to get the warrant withdrawn! This is known as “quashing” the warrant. If you can arrange to have the warrant quashed, you’ll be given a court date to voluntarily appear in court without having to be arrested on the warrant.
- Bail: Most, but not all, warrants have a bail attached to them. This means that you can clear the warrant by posting bail or bond without having to be arrested. An attorney can guide you through this process and connect you with a bail bond company, if necessary. If you are able to post the bail, you’ll be given a court date to address your case without having to be arrested.
- Arrange a Turn-In: Not all warrants can be handled through negotiation alone. Depending on the circumstances, you may be required to turn yourself in to clear the warrant. However, there are right and wrong ways to do this! Since courts aren’t generally open on the weekends, turning yourself in on a Friday is probably not a wise choice. Mondays are often also a poor choice, as the courts are often busy on these days handling cases from the weekend. A criminal defense attorney can advise you on the best time to address the warrant while minimizing the time you spend in jail waiting for court. Although turning yourself in isn’t an ideal option, it’s better to do this on your own terms rather than risk being arrested on the warrant at a particularly inconvenient time. Getting arrested is almost always going to result in more time spent in jail than turning yourself in would have.
Step Three: Say Nothing
If you do find yourself in custody on an arrest warrant, the jail will book you into their facility. As part of this process, you’ll be asked questions about your identity, your contact information, any health issues, and other topics. Once you’re booked in, you may find yourself visited by a police office who wishes to question you about the underlying case. It may be tempting to speak with them in order to find out more information about your case, but don’t! You’ve all heard the phrase, “You have the right to remain silent.” Now is the time to exercise that right.
Step Four: Bail Hearing
If you’re unable to clear the warrant either through negotiation or posting bail, you’ll eventually find yourself before a judge for a bail hearing. I talk more about bail here. Hopefully you’ve been able to secure the services of a defense attorney to help you out at this hearing. This is another moment in which you may be tempted to explain your side of the whole case to the judge, but it’s important to resist this temptation. Anything you say at this hearing could be used against you, so talking about your case is dangerous. Instead, let your attorney do the talking. A skilled criminal defense attorney knows what the judge is looking at when setting bail and how to best convince the judge to be lenient in your case.
Clearing an arrest warrant is usually only the first step. Now that the warrant is addressed, you’ve got a criminal case that needs to be dealt with. The best approach for that depends on the facts of the case, the specific charges you’re facing, and a lot of other factors. Working with a criminal defense attorney can help you to identify any defenses you may have, mitigating factors that weigh in your favor, and many other aspects of your case. This is something that we do every day. If you find yourself facing criminal charges, contact us here to learn how we can help you defend yourself and protect your future.